Whatever happened to porcelain-handled flatware, earthenware tureens, table centerpieces of flowering plants in wicker baskets, cabbageware plates, faience, floral print cloths and napkins, and all of the other traditional, charming table accessories that one used to see so often? Not that any of this tableware is obsolete. In fact, I am sure that many of you set your tables with one (or most) of the aforementioned items. It's just that the current vogue for spare, minimal tableware seems to relegate the old and the jolly to the annals of yesteryear's tablesetting books or, even worse, to the backs of kitchen cabinets.
Look at the 1980s-era table setting above. At Hélène Bouilloux-Lafont's house in France, a table was set for a casual breakfast. Blue and white china, a strawberry teapot, and cabbageware dishes filled with fruit were considered fashionable for dining in the country. But today, tables in the country are set much as they are in town. The china is monochromatic as is the table linen. Glassware is bereft of any ornamentation. (Sometimes it is even bereft of stems!) Flatware is little more than tines, blades, and bowls attached to plain metal sticks. It's all so serious. Where is the fun? Where is the imagination? Where is the strawberry teapot?
As much as I understand the practicality of plain tableware, I am also pretty certain that a beige colored plate won't enliven your table, or your mood, the same way a cabbageware tureen does.
A Tiffany tablesetting created by Mrs. Angier Biddle Duke. The "Blue Canton" china looks smashing against the orange chintz cloth. And that basket, filled with chrysanthemums and cornflowers, helps to tone down any formality at a "Country Supper on the Back Porch".